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#TGW: Big Apple Wingman

Even with plenty of time left to ponder the prospects of Georgia Tech basketball, already there are certainties about Khalid Moore as the freshman has arrived on The Flats from New York City with distinct ties to the program’s present and past.

Some are obvious, others require background, and ultimately the findings merge to leave you thinking that once the Yellow Jackets take the floor for real in early November you might see multiple familiar sights in the 6-foot-7 wing.

First, consider the blending process. As Moore’s life evolves on The Flats, his brotherly teammate Jose Alvarado — he also of Queens — has a smoothing effect.

Tech’s sturdy 6-foot sophomore point guard is shaped differently than the wiry Moore, yet they’re both from the same hoops crucible that cranks out players, they played against each other in high school and teamed together in summer ball.

“At first it’s kind of tough not knowing the players or how it is here, and I think the transition is really tough from high school into college; the first week is tough with the conditioning,” Moore said. “It’s helped a lot knowing somebody.”

Coming from famed Archbishop Molloy High School, which sent Kenny Anderson to Tech, Moore will not debut with acclaim to match that of fellow freshman Michael Devoe, the guard from Orlando considered one of the nation’s top 50 high school players.

There is another familiar story line.

Just two years ago, Josh Okogie showed up from Shiloh High in Snellville with recruiting rankings in line with those of Khalid, who’s No. 211 nationally in 247’s composite ranking of incoming college freshmen. Like Okogie, he shows up a three-star prospect, although ESPN considers Moore a four-star.

And now, a month after Okogie was drafted No. 20 by the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves, there may be quite of bit of Okogie in Moore, and not only because both players arrived at Georgia Tech less heralded.

Tech head coach Josh Pastner often references the importance of the program unearthing diamonds in the rough as an important element in the Yellow Jackets’ recruiting strategy.

Moore and Okogie share characteristics. Moore, too, figures to play shooting guard and small forward, and while his outside jump shot may not yet match up, he plays the game as does Okogie: forcibly, with a greater bent toward stopping scores vs. scoring.

“Energetic, defensive minded, looks to defend the best player on the opposing team, and can score the ball by flashing,” said Molloy assistant coach John Magna.

“By the time you guys are done with him, looking at what you guys did with my buddy Jose Alvarado and his [outside] shot, he’s going to be a heck of a player … he plays with [organs] the size of a horse.”

Moore will acknowledge that his outside shot needs work.

He was never counted on to fill the bucket from distance for Molloy.

Playing alongside fellow senior Moses Brown, a 7-2 center who signed with UCLA, and junior guard Cole Anthony, whom is considered one of the top five players nationally in the next recruiting class, he rarely found himself leaned upon for scoring.

The Jackets next season figure to pick up the pace.

With the graduation of senior center Ben Lammers and guard Tadric Jackson, not to mention the departure of Okogie, Tech will be young.

Sophomores will include guards Alvarado and Curtis Haywood II and forwards Evan Cole and Moses Wright. Graduate transfer Brandon Alston is likely to again be in the mix, and junior guard Shembari Phillips joins the crowd after sitting out last season following his transfer from Tennessee.

Tech’s only bigs will be fifth-year senior Abdoulaye Gueye and fourth-year junior Sylvester Ogbonda. There would appear to be little chance that Pastner might seek to run his offense through his post man, as neither Gueye or Ogbonda have demonstrated the skills to facilitate the way Lammers could.

So, they’re probably going to move the ball even more than in the past.

Moore could be like a shoe that fits on the first try.

“I think I’m a very versatile player, athletic. I play defense, I can rebound, I can get to the basket, and I’m pretty much an all-around player,” he said, simply. “I usually play the 2-3 positions.”

The son of Gillian and Otis Moore does more than hoop.

He thinks.

While being recruited by former Tech assistant Tavaras Hardy, who was recently named as head coach at Loyola-Maryland, he took pitches from quite a few schools, including Virginia and head coach Tony Bennett plus multiple schools in the ACC.

He chose to be a Jacket in part because Tech is Tech. And the ACC is the ACC.

“My final three choices were Georgia Tech, Xavier and Seton Hall,” he said. “They play in a very competitive, very good league. In the ACC, you’re going to play against a lot of top competition. I feel like it was a system that I could fit into, and it’s a good academic school, too.

“I came on an official visit last October. I think it has a really good environment that I felt I could fit into, a lot of stuff around, always something to do.”

Moore comes from stock.

Molloy graduates include former college basketball coach Lou Carnesecca, University of Miami coach Jim Larranaga, New York governor Andrew Cuomo and former North Carolina star, NBA player and current TV analyst Kenny Smith.

Oh, and Kenny Anderson, whom Moore met after he committed to Georgia Tech.

“I met Kenny a few times; he came by the school,” Moore said. “They still talk about him. They have like a little hall of fame [at the school], and he’s in there.”

There is hope that Moore will improve, especially if he cranks up that 3-point shot.

Magna thinks that will happen at Tech, especially after seeing Alvarado’s growth. In his mind, NYC gave Tech clay, and Pastner and Company are molding it into something greater.

Tech coaches helped Alvarado in his freshman season lead the team with 40 3-pointers and shoot 37 percent from distance even though he missed seven games after injuring his left elbow.

That wasn’t a big part of his game in high school, at Christ the King High School in the Catholic High School Athletic Association.

“You’ve got to understand that in New York City, we don’t have gym space. We’ve got five to 10 teams a night renting. The only way to get shots up [practice] is if you go to local park outside [when weather allows],” Magna said. “He’s a Jimmy Butler-style player who is finally coming into his body.

“Once he gets up shots, he will improve by 25 percent. Khalid is a 95 average student . . . He’s extremely intelligent, a ‘Yes, coach-no coach,” type of player with the same kind of energy as Jose Alvarado.

“New York kids can’t go a week without getting battle tested. His body is defined, and it’s going to swell. Once he gains 15 pounds or so, you’re looking at Jimmy Butler.”

That’s one of Okogie’s new teammates, and a 6-8 four-time member of both the NBA’s All-Star and All-Defensive teams plus a member of the 2016 Olympic gold medal team, not a bad player to be compared to.


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